The First String Quartet in C major, Op. 37, was written in the autumn of 1917 and earned Szymanowski the first prize in a competition organized by the Ministry of Religious and in a competition organized by the Ministry of Religious and Educational Affairs in January 1922. The First String Quartet is notable for its clar and simple construction. The first movement is in the form of a sonata allegro; the Andantino semplice (in modo iuna canzone) in the middle is a cross between ternary and variation form. The final Scherzando alla burlesca also keeps to the form of a sonata allegro. The combinations and proportions of formal factors and the treatment of thematic material betray a fairly conventional adoption of classical models. Similarly, the expressive and structural use of melodic material shows a respect for traditional norms. Szymanowski created, in other works from the same period, his own individual type of melodic line, which was strongly expressive and achieved its effect chiefly by its tonal qualieties; nevertheless in this Quartet he returns to a fluid, cantilena-like, symmetrically shaped melodic line, which runs along in broad phrases of a concentrated, reflective character. Melody becomes the chief factor in the development of the form, both in thematic usage and in the application of a more polyphonic texture. Harmonic and tonal means are considerably simplified in the Quartet . Most of the writing is linear, or horizontal, with individual treatment of each part, the parallel continuation of the four sound planes, almost a matter of principle. The functions of the particular instruments in realizing these planes are constantly changing, which accounts for the even greater variedy of tone-colour. The decision to forego experiment with forms and sonorities is reflected in the overall approach to musical expression. The predominant atmosphere of restrained emotion, quiet lyricism and serenity is strongly suggestive of classical aestetic models.
(Based on Zofia Helman Commentary on Szymanowski Complete Edition, Vol. B6)
(II) The ''Second String Quartet'' represents an interesting attempt to revert to classical form coupled with the new harmonic and tonal vocabulary worked out previously in the ''Słopiewnie'', ''Stabat Mater'' and ''Mazurkas''. It was also the first time the composer had used folk elements in the framework of a major classical form. The ''Second String Quartet'' is in a special category among Szymanowski's works. Though it dates from the period when the composer was still occupied with folk music, it nevertheless shows him returning to classical models, but at the same time using an aesthetic of subjective expression, which gives the work its own individual stamp. The ''Second String Quartet'' synthesis of the various directions in which Szymanowski was attempting to develop. The sonority and texture used in the first movement, with its strong tone colours, hark back to those middle period works which were particularly advanced from that poin of view, whereas the overall architecture of the work, an the way in which its thematic material is moulded stem from the traditional understanding of the form. The folk quality of the melodies and the strong, pulsating rhythms of the second movement have the typical characteristics of the 'nationalistic' period, while the fugue manages to combine folk elements with polyphonic technique. This synthesis of creative methods is yet another confirmation of the underlying unity of stylistic features in Szymanowski's variet output.
(Based on Zofia Helman Commentary to the Szymanowski Complete Edition, Vol B6)
Szymanowski - GA / CE
- ISMN 979-0-2740-2008-8
- Language of edition: eng, ger
- Number of pages: 60
- Cover: hardcover
- No. of edition: 3
- Published: 2019